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The Unbrand of a Citizen

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What is it about branding cities that appeals to people so much? Is it not unlike the push to identify oneself? If you are highly in tune with your image and what that image is, then you are constantly doing things to make it better.

And that quest to make things better, on an individual level, might mean that one needs to move, change jobs, dump a partner, start a business and a host of other things that are only indirectly affected by the greater brand of a business or municipality. People who are super rich can afford to have homes in multiple locales. They have an affinity and sometimes a corporate presence in multiple locales. Poor people are just trying to make ends meet and if given the opportunity, will go wherever they need to go to make that life happen. If anything, the city brand is aimed at people in the middle, those who are aspiring and holding on to what is left of the traditional American Dream.

But even some of those folks are immune to city loyalty. And it’s not a failure of any city to not keep or satisfy any of these folks. I used to hate Tiebout’s “Vote with Your Feet” model. I though he was a cop-out to making sure all towns provide all people what they need at all times. I still believe that the gold standard of any area that wants to be incorporated, is to provide all that is needed. Yet, for a means of self-preservation and I mean that on a mental health and Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs level, I believe people should move on if they find that a metro area or an apartment or a job or even family members, aren’t providing them with the basic needs. Especially if the bottom part of the triangle (food, shelter, etc.) aren’t there. No city brand can combat the unfufillment of Mazlow’s hierarchy.

So even though I agree with the spirit of changing the mantra of Greensboro to one that doesn’t mention what’s not here and I’m excited to hear that Raleigh’s solidifying their brand, there will always be detractors, and some will be valid.

But please cities, stop blaming yourselves when you can’t brand an individual citizen.

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